The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) hosted its semifinal playoff games at American University in northwest Washington, D.C. on Feb. 27. Longtime rivals DeMatha and Gonzaga will meet in the WCAC championship game on Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. The AFRO recaps the days high school hoops playoff action.

Paul VII Panthers (Fairfax, Va.) vs. DeMatha Stags (Hyattsville, Md.)

DeMatha opened the game with a clear size advantage over the smaller Panthers, trotting out six-foot-eight inch forwards senior Mikael Hopkins and sophomore BeeJay Anya. The mismatch was evident all afternoon as it dared Paul VII to attack inside, helping DeMatha to a 52-47 victory. The Stags forced the Panthers to shoot from distance but fortunately for the Panthers, junior guard Patrick Holloway (22 points) had the hot hand. Behind Holloway, Paul VII (20-10) erased a nine-point first half deficit to take a brief one-point lead in the third quarter but DeMatha responded with some key plays from their guards late in the game to pull out the win. DeMatha (24-7) didn’t play great but they didn’t have to. With a trio of six-foot-eight-inch forwards in their starting lineup, DeMatha has the leading height advantage in the WCAC and it’s the reason why they’ll be playing in the championship game on Feb. 28.

Bishop McNamara Mustangs (Forestville, Md.) vs. Gonzaga Eagles (Washington, D.C.)

Clearly the most anticipated matchup of the evening but it was over before it started actually. Gonzaga exploded to a 22-6 first quarter and didn’t even break a sweat until the waning moments of their 80-63 victory. Sophomore guard Nate Britt (21 points) played like the point guard who has Duke University hot on his trail. His poise, unselfishness and knack for making plays for his team helped steer the Eagles to a 54-31 lead late in the second quarter. But McNamara senior guard and WCAC player of the year Marcus Thornton (35 points) wouldn’t let his team fade so easy. Thornton made eight three pointers and nearly erased a 23-point deficit by himself, wowing the crowd with a series of deep jump shots. McNamara (21-9) pulled within eight points late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t come any closer as Gonzaga (24-6) reared things back under control to advance to the title game.

DeMatha and Gonzaga will meet for the third straight year in the WCAC title game but Eagles forward Kris Jenkins may not participate in the festivities. The sophomore twisted his ankle attempting a block in the second half and limped off the court in severe pain. However, when asked about Jenkins’ availability for the championship game Gonzaga coach Steve Turner didn’t sound worried at all. “Kris Jenkins will play ,” Turner forecasted.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO